Taco Bell Offers Free Tacos To Dieters

Someone in Taco Bell’s marketing department is unclear on the concept of “losing weight,” or else just completely amoral (hence the marketing job), because the company is “sponsoring” Oklahoma City residents who have taken part in a weight loss challenge by giving away free tacos. To be fair, these “fresco crunchy tacos” are less than 200 calories each (the company says 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, but this independent analysis puts it slightly higher). But still—tacos? Free tacos to people who are trying to lose weight?

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett says, “[Taco Bell] got on board really early and we helped them promote those items hoping people would take advantage of it.”

He goes on to say, “They said when you get 100,000 pounds, we have a special prize for everybody in Oklahoma City and sure enough here it is. Everybody in Oklahoma City gets a free fresco taco.”

Taco Bell promotes its “Fresco menu” as having 9 items under 9 grams of fat, but somehow we don’t see fast food tacos with mystery meat as part of a healthy diet. Probably some angry reader will say we’re being restaurant elitists for assuming that just because a food is cheap it’s worthless, and at least Taco Bell is offering something healthy to eat. But considering that 45-50% of the Fresco taco’s calories come from fat, we have a hard time equating “Taco Bell” with “nutritious diet.”

Update—a reader sent in the following:

As many commenters in that story pointed out, meat grading is entirely optional, and has absolutely nothing to do with it’s fitness for human consumption. (Indeed, the optional grading takes place after the required approval for human consumption.) Meat is largely graded by the degree of fat marbling throughout the meat. Given that ground beef would chop any fat up into tiny little bits, no matter how nicely marbled, it would be kind of silly for a ground beef producer to pay extra to have the meat graded.

So, of couse Taco Bell doesn’t know the grade of their meat, as it likely doesn’t have one. If you went to your local grocer, you would discover that almost all of the ground beef there was ungraded also. To imply that Taco Bell uses “Mystery Meat” simply because they use ungraded beef is really quite unfair to Taco Bell. There are a lot of things you could point out when arguing against eating at Taco Bell, but their use of ungraded beef is not one of them.

“Taco Bell Rewards Metro Residents” [KSBI-TV]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Gann says:

    I know it’s terrible, but every couple of months or so I get an inexplicable craving for Taco Bell, which I subsequently regret and swear I’ll never get it again.

  2. B says:

    Suddenly I have a craving for tacos. Good thing I’m not on a diet.

  3. MissPeacock says:

    I got Taco Bell yesterday for the first time in nearly a year (I was craving it soooo badly and it was worth every unhealthy second) and I noticed that they had dieting tips posted on the walls.

  4. JennQPublic says:

    Actually, Taco Bell is the healthiest fast food restaurant, according to Weight Watchers. That’s not really saying much though.

  5. LadyNo says:

    This makes sense to me. Taco Bell is promoting one of its healthier options to people who have demonstrated an interest in healthful eating. These are people who might otherwise swear off Taco Bell because they assume it’s all bad for you.

  6. theblackdog says:

    There should really be a disclaimer for the free taco.

    Free* Fresco Soft Taco

    * 1 per person, or you’ll screw up the weight loss challenge ya fatass.

  7. theblackdog says:

    @theblackdog: And that’s what I get for skimming the article rather than reading it line by line, there *is* a limit.

  8. TMMadman says:

    I don’t know about this Taco Bell taco, but made properly a taco isn’t that unhealthy.

    Corn tortilla, grilled lean steak, lettuce, and tomato. You can also add onions, salsa or jalapeños. Hell you could probably even get away with adding a bit of guacamole, but sour cream wouldn’t be a good idea.

  9. humphrmi says:

    This reminds me of that Simpson’s episode where Barney goes to an AA meeting, and then as he’s leaving trades his five minute chip for a beer.

  10. LoveNoelG says:

    Mick Cornett is the mayor? Dude used to be the sports guy on local tv. Interesting.

    I know nothing of my hometown, but when I go back every few years I realize that the “obesity epidemic” is a real thing. Seriously OKC, take care of yourselves!

  11. 44 in a Row says:

    But considering what goes into their products (seriously, click on that “mystery meat” link above),

    Read the comments, too. Taco Bell isn’t “mystery meat”, it’s just not USDA graded for quality (which is voluntary, done at the business’s expense, and is generally only done for the top three grades).

  12. stevegoz says:

    It probably goes without saying that Taco Bell tacos rarely resemble the one pictured.

  13. Whatever, I still think this is an awesome idea. A few Fresco tacos with some Drank and you’ll be too out of it to care how much you weigh.

  14. 44 in a Row says:

    I’m a big fan of the chicken grilled stuffed burrito. It’s 670 calories or so with sauce and cheese, 600 without the sauce (which I don’t like and wouldn’t get even if I didn’t care about calories), and 520 without both. And the thing is enormous.

  15. 44 in a Row says:

    I mean, by the way, that the aforementioned burrito isn’t bad as a meal. Obviously you don’t want to be eating a couple of them as a mid-day snack.

  16. BloggyMcBlogBlog says:

    @TMMadman: And with the jalapeños comes that extra salmonella kick.

  17. DrGirlfriend says:

    Tacos don’t have to be bad for you. 150-200 calories isn’t that terrible. It’s not exactly 100% nutritious, but neither is peanut butter and cat hair :p

    As was pointed out above, the comments in the mystery meat Consumerist article shed some light on the issue. Should Taco Bell respond to these questions? Yes. Should we automatically assume they are using dog food or something? No.

    And it’s not even that I love Taco bell. But this just kind of seems like a “what is up with THAT?!” rant, rather than an actual consumer issue.

  18. officeboy says:

    Even 2 of these would have been fine for me when I was on a diet. 300-400 calories for lunch is fine. Heck you could have 8 or 9 a day and still be at a decent level of calories (1700ish). Might get tired of em quick though.

  19. PinkBox says:

    This is REALLY making me want a taco right now. There is a Taco Bell less than a mile from here.


  20. NTC-Brendan says:

    If someone is really wired up and fired up for weight loss a taco, no matter how they dress it up is not a great choice. With that being said I am all up for vendors selling alternatives that are better nutritionally than their main product line.

    This is a buyer get educated thing. Having a choice that is less unhealthy for when you have a craving is a good thing. Using and Marketing Tacos as a “Diet Food” is just ignorant and in really poor taste.

  21. DrGirlfriend says:

    But are they marketing it as “diet food”? Or just as a line within their menu that is lower in calories and/or fat than the regular fare?

  22. latkadog says:

    Im on a diet right now and if im hungry and i dont have time to cook (which is often)i get wendys grilled chicken or Moes tacos (a gourmet quick-serve mexican resturant chain, just one step up from fast food). Without the sour cream or guacamole and only a few chips I’ve lost around 30 lbs. Just because a resturant could make an item that clocks in at 2500 calories doesnt mean they still cant do healthy items. there are iteam at wendys and Moes that still clock in at a million calories, but you have to make the educated decision and have the will power to make the correct decisions.

  23. @44 in a Row: Duly noted. I’ve updated the post to provide more information on the “mystery meat” claims.

  24. Scuba Steve says:

    Actually they do if you ask for double meat. Nothing like paying 2 bucks for a single taco with no cheese and use Pico de guyo instead of regular tomatoes.

  25. snakeskin33 says:

    These tacos certainly would not be a good staple food if you were trying to lose weight. But fast food as a staple food is not a good idea for anyone. If you put fast food in its proper place, which is as something you occasionally grab either because you have a craving or because you’re in a hurry, these are perfectly acceptable. It’s important to remember that recommendations about percentages of fat don’t mean you can’t eat a specific item that has a greater percentage; they’re talking about the overall percentage in your diet. Depending on what you ate for breakfast and dinner, you could perfectly well fit two of these into your lunch on a day with a decent nutritional breakdown. I don’t disagree that you wouldn’t want to go overboard recommending fast food as diet food, but it’s also important not to stigmatize entire categories of food — You Can Not Have Tacos; You Can Not Have Pizza — when that’s kind of not the point.

  26. GothGirl says:

    Taco Bell = great hang over food

  27. EmperorOfCanada says:

    I think I see where they are going with this… You are on a diet, go to taco bell, order taco, look at taco, lose appetite! Finally a diet that works!

  28. 44 in a Row says:

    Taco Bell = great still drunk food

    There isn’t anything much better than stopping at Taco Bell on the way home from the bar.

  29. Could have done without the insinuation that all people in marketing are amoral.

  30. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @EmperorOfCanada: Or go to Taco Bell, order taco, spend next ten hours emptying your bowels into the nearest toilet, and lose weight! It probably does work… and it’s cheaper than Ex-Lax.

  31. timmus says:

    This is hilarious because back in 1997 I worked in Oklahoma City and lost 30 pounds eating nothing but Taco Bell tacos for 4 months. Two tacos for lunch, one in the evening, no sides or coke, and a reasonable number of snacks. I dropped from 184 to 156 lbs.

  32. juniper says:

    All things considered, getting a plain chicken (not spicy chicken) soft taco, fresco-style, isn’t a bad way to end a drunken night. The fresco-style is much tastier and more flavorful than the way they’re usually prepared… it’s a tomato-onion-cilantro salsa on top, instead of cheese, shredded lettuce, and sour cream.

  33. pollyannacowgirl says:


    That’s like the cancer warning on cigarette packs. If you’re there, you don’t care how bad it is for you!

    AND I totally disagree with the government’s food pyramid and recommendations for weight loss. Eating plenty of “good fats” is fine.

  34. friendlynerd says:

    I love getting Fresco-style stuff at Taco Bell. Just try and find a location that 1. knows what you’re talking about when you say “fresco style,” 2. isn’t “out of the ingredients,” or 3. Actually make it that way after you ask.

  35. officeboy says:

    @pollyannacowgirl: No kidding, what would worry me the most would be what kinda of sugar/corn syrup are they sticking in there and how many carbs are in a taco shell.

  36. ChuckECheese says:

    @B: Suddenly I have a craving for tacos. Good thing I’m not in Oklahoma.

    Oklahoma is hilarious.

  37. Japheaux says:

    We’re not going to see a south-of-the-border guy pulling open his chinos ala Jared the Subway fatass, are we? I agree with the readers (Gothgirl, 44 in a Row) who just know Taco Bell food exists for bringing one’s alcohol level back into balance. They are ‘open late’ for a reason.

    Side note: I used to do a lot of computer work that took me into many fast-food restaurants and I must confess that Taco Bells were by far the cleanest of the major chains. I never could really figure out why the others chains were trashy.

  38. Dyscord says:

    Taco Bell isn’t that bad. I prefer it to McDonalds that’s for sure.

    It’s not like eating a taco is going to cause you to gain 50 lbs or anything.

  39. goodpete says:

    Population of Oklahoma City: 500,000
    Total fat per taco: 8oz.
    Total fat from all free tacos: 250,000lbs

    I think the title should have read: “OK City loses 100,000lbs of fat, Taco Bell rewards them with 250,000lbs of fat!”

  40. Counterpoint says:

    Their fresco chicken racnhero soft tacos are pretty tasty, and only 170 calories (4g fat, 1.5 sat). Two are pretty filling, too, and 340 calories is a pretty healthy lunch size. Now if only they offered whole wheat soft tacos…

  41. goodpete says:

    Okay, need to learn to read… that’s 8 grams, not 8 ounces… my bad… ignore me.

  42. IndyJaws says:

    having been on weight watchers for almost a year, I can say that the Fresco tacos are a great way to satisfy the fast food cravings in a relatively healthy way.

  43. digitalgimpus says:

    The grading thing goes for Eggs too. The grade refers to the firmness and integrity of the yolk. Lower grade eggs make ugly poached eggs, but are no less safe to eat.

    The lower grade eggs are often bought to make things like bread, cakes, and other items where the egg’s appearance makes no difference.


    Sadly some people insist it’s quality, and anything below AA isn’t for human consumption. Hardly the case. Buy any item made with egg in the store, and you’ve had non-AA grade egg.

  44. HogwartsAlum says:

    When I lived in Santa Cruz, CA, I used to eat Taco Bell all the time. They had this thing called Extreme Nachos at the time, that I believe was being test marketed out there, that had a giant tray of beans, meat, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and Wild Sauce and two sections on the side full of red chips. It was unbelievably delicious and probably contained a week’s worth of fat. I must have eaten a hundred of them.

    I didn’t gain weight when I was living out there; I lost weight, even eating Taco Bell a lot. Wanna know why? No car. I had to walk everywhere. The weather was nice all year, and the city was ped- and bike-friendly, also with a great bus system if I wanted to go to the mall.

    Where I live now in the Midwest (back in MO, not OK but close), it’s not friendly to walkers and it’s either freezing or scorching out. It’s harder to exercise here like I did there. Guess what? I gained weight.

    No matter what you eat, no matter what vegetables you put on your taco, it will not help you if you don’t get your buns moving! Even Subway Jared walked EVERY. DAY.

    *Sigh.* I miss Santa Cruz. :

    (sorry for caps – don’t know how to do italics yet)

  45. tande04 says:

    Seeing as I’m not the only one that appears to be easily susceptible to suggestion, I’m sure we all thank you consumerist for the fresco tacos we had for lunch that we weren’t planning on.

    Like others have said, a little pico on a taco doesn’t suddenly make it health food but it does make it better then some of the other options on the menu.

    The important thing to realize is that there isn’t anything special about the “fresco” menu. They just dropped the cheese, sauce, sour cream, and other things that add calories unnecessarily and turned it into a marketing ploy.

    Anyone could of ordered their tacos that way before they named it and the same holds true for any other fast food or sit down restaurant you might find yourself in. You can find healthier options if you just get less stuff on it

  46. dinoman1989 says:

    You mean immoral, not amoral.

    Amoral means that they deny the existence of a distinct right and wrong, or are incapable of being held to such standards (eg a dog).

    Immoral means that they do wrong (eg a thief).

  47. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:

    Personally, I love Taco Bell’s Fresco menu. 2 Fresco steak soft tacos + 1 bowl of Spanish rice = a decent meal at less than 500 calories. Add in the fact that there’s one in walking distance from my work, and it’s become my fast food lunch of choice since I started dieting (well, one of ’em; the other is the Carl’s Jr. BBQ chicken sandwich + a side salad).

    @tande04: Yes, I know that, technically, you could just go to any fast food taco joint and say, “No cheese, no sour cream, add salsa”, but the thing I like about the Fresco menu is that calorie counts for the items without such accouterments is readily available. Makes it much easier to fit into my diet plan.

  48. Look out, Jenny Craig. You gots some competition. Taco Bell is offering anyone who walks 5 miles and exercises daily a free TACO – equivolent to what they’ve burned in calories.

    Talk about INCENTIVE.

  49. Wubbytoes says:

    Maybe I’ll take my wife out for a classy dinner of free tacos in Oklahoma City.

  50. 310Drew says:

    Last I saw about a year ago when my friend worked at taco bell, the box of meat in the freezer was labeled ” Grade D Taco Filling” unless Taco Smell has it’s own meat grading system and has the D for Delicious, I’m willing to bet its really grade D beef.

  51. DamThatRiver says:

    I wonder if Jacoby Ellsbury played any role in this.

    (Lame joke, I know, but I couldn’t resist.)

  52. HeartBurnKid, creepy morbid freak says:
  53. Decaye says:

    @310Drew: Meat is NOT graded by letter, and never has been in this country. Nice try.

    I think I’m going to go eat a couple of Queso Crunchwraps right now, actually.